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Merry Acres Academic Bowl champs

Lennis Prince, IV, captain of the Merry Acres Middle School Academic team, accepts the championship trophy for his team and school from Mary Braswell, Albany Herald librarian. Merry Acres has won the district event seven times in the past eleven years.

Lennis Prince, IV, captain of the Merry Acres Middle School Academic team, accepts the championship trophy for his team and school from Mary Braswell, Albany Herald librarian. Merry Acres has won the district event seven times in the past eleven years.

ALBANY -- It's been a while since a determined group of youngsters from Merry Acres Middle School have wrangled back the Academic Bowl trophy from their arch rival, Robert Cross.

In a double-elimination tournament, the final game was decided 140-90, with Merry Acres bringing back the Christine Blaylock cup for their school display case.

"Their victory today was truly representative of MAMS' (Merry Acres Middle School) competive nature," said Rhonda Harden, language arts teacher at Merry Acres and coach of the school's academic "dream team."

Albany Middle, Dougherty International, Radium Springs, Albany Early College and Southside middle schools were the other participants in the competition, which is conducted annually by the Dougherty County School System and The Albany Herald.

Over the past 11 years the district Academic Bowl has been a see-saw battle between two middle school titans, with Merry Acres taking the title seven times and Robert Cross, four. This is the first Merry Acres win since 2008.

"The kids told our principal, Dr. Ufot Inyang, 'We're bringing our trophy back home,' " Harden said, "and they did."

In addition to Merry Acres Middle School, three other top competing middle schools -- Robert Cross, Radium Springs and Dougherty International -- will advance to the regional contest, to be held in Moultrie this coming January. That competition will include middle schools from cities such as Thomasville, and Bainbridge.

Lennis Prince IV, captain of the winning team, said he was confident of his players right from the start.

"We had a really good group of people," Prince said. "We never once sent a substitute. I knew which of our players were best in the questions we received and it all worked out."

Adam Bedingfield, team co-captain, is strongest in math, he said, but he was confident in how well-rounded the Merry Acres members were.

Other members of the Merry Acres starting team were Jarrett Smith, Justin Evans, and Dane Armstrong.

Additional players were Grant Brunson, Mary Bonner, Byron Williams, John Hatcher and Tyler Burke.

Saloni Patel and Robert Peacock were member alternates.

Harden credited Thursday's victory to the ability of the players to work well together and their dedication to working at least two nights a week for an hour and a half each session. She also credited the teams two "co-sponsors, Valencia Rivers and Tammy Bankole.